OX40 boosts and sustains humoral and cellular immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and RNA vaccinations

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AAI Annual Meeting; May 6-10; Portland, OR. 2022


oregon; chiles; covid-19


To prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections and generate long-lasting immunity, vaccines need to generate both, a strong humoral immune response as well as viral-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells. Previous results from our lab have shown that immunization in the presence of an agonist antibody targeting OX40 led to higher antibody titers and increased numbers of antigen-specific CD4 and CD8 T cells. Using the same strategy, we explored the effect of OX40 co-stimulation in the prime and boost together with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein + adjuvant in C57Bl/6 mice. Our results show that OX40 engagement led to a significant increase in long-lived antibody responses when compared to mice that did not receive additional co-stimulation. In addition, spike protein and peptide-specific proliferation were greatly increased for both CD4 and CD8 T cells, with augmented secretion of IFN-, TNF- and IL-2. Booster immunizations (7 months post prime) did not lead to anergy, but instead further increased the antibody and T cell responses. In initial experiments, the self-amplifying RNA (saRNA) vaccination generated lower antibody titers, independent of OX40 co-stimulation. However, the saRNA vaccine did induce a robust expansion of spike-specific GrzmB+ CD8 T cells, as revealed by tetramer staining, and these were further increased by OX40 administration. The strong immune responses and the differential effects of the protein and saRNA vaccines suggest that heterologous prime-boost approaches, as currently approved in adults, might be beneficial in boosting different arms of the anti-viral immune response against SARS-CoV-2, with OX40 agonists enhancing both approaches. Further studies in animals will aid defining the effects and benefits of this approach.


Earle A. Chiles Research Institute


Infectious Diseases


Duhen R, Beymer M, Jensen SM, Abbina S, Abraham S, Thomas A, Hu HM, Fox BA, Weinberg AD

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